Hammertoes and claw toes are similar conditions that cause an unnatural bend of the toes of the foot. Both conditions can affect the movement of the toes and can cause a deformity of the foot. Hammertoe causes the toes to bend downward at the middle toe joint making it difficult to flex the foot and move the toes. Claw toes resemble a claw where the toes of the foot bend upward from the joint at the ball of the foot and bend downwards at the middle joint. Treatment for both conditions is similar and based on the individual’s needs.
Similarities and Differences
Hammertoe and claw toe are painful conditions that can cause difficulty in walking. They are both similar in the cause of the condition. Factors that can cause both hammertoe and claw toe include:
- Wearing shoes that do not fit properly, have little arch support, or have a high heel
- Having a muscle imbalance or neurological disease
- Having a metabolic issue or condition such as arthritis
- Having a trauma or injury to the toes
- Having nerve damage to the foot due to a condition such as diabetes
Hammertoe and claw toe have similar symptoms such as:
- The appearance of the toes looks bent
- Pain in the affected toe or toes
- Loss of toe flexibility
- Visible deformity of the foot
- Swelling of the toes
- Redness of the toes
- Additional foot problems such as corns or calluses
Those with claw toes often have a higher foot arch or a muscle imbalance. Those with hammertoes often have a longer second toe.
The main difference between hammertoe and claw toe involves the location of the affected joint. Hammertoe affects the second or middle joint in the toe causing it to bend downward. It typically affects a single toe, most commonly the second toe. Claw toe affects one or more of the little toes and can happen to all four toes. It can affect the middle and end toe joints and cause the toes to bend and curl under.
Diagnosing and Treating Hammertoe or Claw Toe
If you are experiencing pain or symptoms of hammertoe or claw toe, contact your podiatrist for an evaluation. A podiatrist will be able to diagnose and recommend treatment options based on your individual needs and condition.
To diagnose either condition, a podiatrist will conduct a physical exam and order any necessary imaging tests. An imaging test such as an X-ray can give more detail of your exact condition and any damage that may be a result of it.
Treatment options are similar for both hammertoe and claw toe and can include:
Pain medication can be used to help reduce pain and inflammation in the toes. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil or Aleve is often recommended as an option.
Wearing shoes that are comfortable and soft with extra room in the toes can help prevent further problems and pain. Any shoe with a higher heel should be avoided since it can add more pressure on the toes.
Orthotics or inserts can be worn in the shoes to help relieve any pressure or pain and reposition the toes.
Extra padding can be used over any areas that have corns and calluses to help with pain and healing.
Exercises that help stretch and strengthen toe and foot muscles can help with both conditions.
For more extreme or painful cases that do not respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be recommended as an option. Both hammertoe and claw toe can be surgically reconstructed and realigned into proper position or the entire toe joint can be replaced. A tendon release procedure may also be considered.
Do You Need a Caring and Experienced Podiatrist?
If you are experiencing pain in your feet or ankles, have questions about hammertoes or claw toes, and need help, contact our office for an evaluation. You can contact us online to schedule your appointment or call one of our convenient El Paso offices directly. To reach our Sierra Tower Building podiatrist office, please call 915.533.5151. You can find driving directions here. To reach our George Dieter Drive podiatry office, please call 915.856.3331. Driving directions are available here.